Friday, 4 October 2019
A Ration Book Childhood by Jean Fullerton #BlogTour
If you're a fan of wartime family sagas, you might already know and enjoy books written by Jean Fullerton.
A Ration Book Childhood is the third novel in the East End Ration Book series (following Pocketful of Dreams and A Ration Book Christmas).
It follows the lives of the Brogan family, set during the Blitz in London's East End.
Ida Brogan is the heart and soul of a big household. She lives with her children, husband and argumentative and contrary mother-in-law in a workman's cottage, just a short walk from the London docks.
Her two eldest daughters, Mattie and Cathy, are married and live separately, and Ida helps them as well as her daughter-in-law, looking after grandchildren.
Her youngest daughter Jo and son Billy are still living with parents.
Life during the Blitz is perilous and devastating. The night raids wreak havoc on the neighbourhoods. Noone ever knows if their house would still be there when they get back home after the night in the shelter.
Ida's curmudgeonly mother-in-law Queenie refuses to go to the air raid shelters, taking her chances by staying at home.
Her husband Jerimiah works hard to provide for his wife and kids, and with rationing it's a struggle to feed a big family.
But they are plodding along and are relatively happy - they are all alive and are not starving.
That is until Ida's world is shattered by her oldest friend Ellen's return to London. Ellen has a secret which rips Ida's marriage in tatters. Years ago, when Ida was recovering from the death of her baby, her husband had a brief affair with Ellen. If that was not a terrible revelation enough, Ellen is dying and wants Jerimiah to look after their child, when she's gone.
Can Ida forgive her husband and former friend and welcome the soon-to-be motherless child in her home? Will she be able to overcome the feelings of betrayal and not take it on the innocent party in this love triangle?
Without going into spoilers, I was thinking how hard it would be for any woman in Ida's situation.
Not only her husband and best friend had a fling, when she was mad with grief after losing her baby, she is pressured into acknowledging the fruit of that liaison and looking after him when his mother is gone.
"Since he'd told her about Ellen's condition she'd hardly spoken a word to him. To be honest, he didn't blame her, especially what he was now asking of her. Most women would have told him straight out where to go but his Ida wasn't most women. He prayed to God she might be able to rescue them both from the hell he'd plunged them into".
Times change, yet even now many women cannot afford a luxury of chucking their cheating husbands out, and keep tolerating their presence for the sake of their children and social security. During the time of war, it was difficult to survive even with the husband providing for the family. Ida is fuming, but there is not much she can do.
Ida is a strong protagonist, and you feel her pain and anguish.
There is a plethora of supporting characters, including the matriarch of the Brogan family, old Queenie. She is a controversial figure who loves her family and is loyal to them, but she's also dabbling in the illegal activities. Queenie is the local character, frequenting the pubs and taking the bets on the coming horse races.
Ida's friend Ellen is dying from cancer. She knows what she's done was wrong on so many levels, betraying her best friend, especially at the time of mourning, but she's totally unrepentant. Just because she's always loved Jerri, since she was a child, she has no regrets for taking a chance to love another woman's husband.
There are interesting subplots of Ida's daughters and their marriages, as well as Ida's diva-esque sister Pearl. They are all well-drawn characters who you either sympathise with or loathe.
This moving war story is full of pain and hope at the same time. It's an epic family saga, rich in historical detail, with strong female protagonists in the male-centred world.
Compelling and convincing, this is a poignant tale of love betrayed and compassion found.
Jean Fullerton is a gifted storyteller who explores the mysteries of the human heart.
About Jean Fullerton:
Jean Fullerton is the author of thirteen historical novels and two novellas. She is a qualified District and Queen's Nurse who spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor.
She is also a qualified teacher and spent twelve years lecturing on community nursing studies at a London university.
She now writes full time.
Please visit www.jeanfullerton.com
Many thanks to Jean Fullerton, Corvus and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!
This book review is part of the blog tour for A ration book childhood. You can check out other bloggers' reviews along the way: